One of Apple’s display suppliers is in dire financial trouble

Japan Display’s reluctance to embrace OLED manufacturing has cost it dearly. The firm took a net loss of ¥31.5 billion ($ 287,185,500) from April to June. “We have decided to make a strategic change as we would have no future in the smartphone business without OLED,” CEO Nobuhiro Higasgiiriki (above) said. The iPhone screen supplier has shed 30 percent of its employees (3,700 people according to Phys.org) and is reorganizing for what it says is the last time.

“We find ourselves in a very regrettable situation,” Higasgiiriki said. “Our biggest task is to build a management system that generates profits by keeping in mind that this is our last chance to restructure.” Its current OLED prototype won’t go into full production until 2019 — a year later than previous estimates.

According to Reuters‘ sources, the display supergroup was hoping to raise 100 million yen ($ 911,400) to pay for the restructuring. The company started in 2012 as a joint venture between Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba, with a focus on making small to mid-sized LCD screens.

Japan’s Innovation Network Corp helped fund the venture back then, and could come to its rescue once again with a ¥75 billion ($ 683,147,250) investment, Reuters reports. That should cover the restructuring costs. But, if the rumors are true, Apple needs OLED screens now, not in two year’s time.

Source: Phys.org, Reuters

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Motorcycle helmets finally get decent heads-up display navigation

I’m a huge proponent of reducing any and all distractions while riding a motorcycle, scooter, or moped. Helmets and padded gear are great, but when you get down to it, riders are still just squishy people zipping through traffic next to giant machines that could kill you if a driver sneezes or decides to text a friend. So the idea of a HUD (Heads Up Display) for a motorcycle is equal parts intriguing and terrifying.

Done right, it keeps your head up and eyes off your gauges and whatever navigation system you have strapped to your handlebars. Done wrong, and it’s a one-way ticket to the emergency room because you were spending too much time going through menus and trying to find relevant information instead of paying attention to the car in front of you that just slammed on its brakes. A fender bender in a car is a annoyance. A fender bender on a bike could land you in the ICU.

In comes the $ 700 Nuviz, a HUD for full-face helmets. The device’s purpose is to keep you informed while riding without adding too much distraction that could lead to hospitalization. And for the most part, it succeeds.

It shows your speed, navigation, maps, calls and your music via a tiny mirrored see-thru display that sits below the vision-line of your right eye. It’s there when you need it and you can almost ignore it when you don’t.

To see the information about your ride, you peer downward at the display which is focused about 13.5 feet in front of you. That means you’re refocusing your eyes, but the same thing happens when you look at your gauge cluster. Fortunately, the main screen is tailored for quick glances. Your speed and next turn are easily discernible by quickly peeking downward without moving your head which is Nuviz’s advantage over the dials that came with your bike.

Plus, the Nuviz supports audio and comes with the headset that can be installed in a helmet or it’ll sync to Bluetooth-enabled helmets. It’s a bit of a multimedia experience right on your noggin.

My apprehension about the potential for distraction intensified when I installed it on my helmet. From the outside, it’s huge. And while its 8.5 ounce weight didn’t bother me, for some folks with lightweight helmets, that might be a deal breaker. But when I actually put on my helmet all I saw was the tiny display which was a relief.

Riding with the Nuviz also reduced my anxiety. With the combination or visual and audio cues, I was finally able to navigate to a destination without pulling over and checking my phone or attaching it to the mount I bought a few years back and have only used twice because I’m sure my iPhone will fall out of it and break into a thousand pieces on US 101.

The display was bright enough to be legible in direct sunlight, although there were some tiny rainbow-colored dots that appeared in the glass. It wasn’t enough to block the information, but it’s there and while beautiful at times, it’s just another thing you’ll catch yourself looking at.

Navigating the menu system was simple enough with the supplied controller you attach near your left handlebar. An up and down lever scrolls through the main features and it’s surrounded by four action buttons. After a few hours riding using it becomes as second nature as activating my turn signals, high beams or horn.

The controller is also how you turn on the device’s 8 megapixel camera. With it you can take video and photos of your ride. The quality won’t replace a GoPro, but the photos were good enough to capture deer in the brush next to the road. The 1080p video quality is reminiscent of a smartphone from five years ago. It’s basically satisfactory and really the allure is that you don’t have to stop and pull out a camera to capture a moment.

It also might lead to gigantic slideshows, I took 100 photos during a ride around Mount Tamalpais. It’s very easy to just tap the photo button on the controller while riding.

Yet those are the kind of rides the Nuviz is built for. Long excursions on roads without heavy traffic. It was only during that type of jaunt that I felt comfortable turning on music (something I would never do while riding in San Francisco) and taking photos. The companion app makes creating a route with multiple stops that you send to the device a breeze and the actual navigation both on screen and in ear, was easy to follow without being overly distracting.

The device and controller are both easy to remove and reattach to your bike and helmet so you don’t have to check your bike every five minutes during lunch breaks. That also means you can ditch the whole system when doing short rides around town. In my experience, the Nuviz didn’t add much value to my daily commute. I know where I’m going and the roads are for too congested to even think about using it.

Plus, when it’s attached to your helmet, it’s never 100 percent gone. The tiny display, while helpful, is still in your peripheral. You sort of learn to ignore it, but when you’re lane splitting (only legal in California) and keeping an eye out for one of San Francisco’s many bike-swallowing potholes, you don’t need another (no matter how small) distraction.

But for weekend jaunts, the Nuviz is outstanding. It’s eight hour battery life should keep you on your route for the entire day and it’s on-board GPS and downloaded maps means even if you lose signal, you won’t get lost. For Kawasaki KLR and BMW GS riders, it’s a great little companion. But for daily riders in congested cities, it’s best to focus on the act of riding.

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Japan Display battles Samsung’s OLED with curved LCD screens

One of Apple’s main screen suppliers, Japan Display Inc. (JDI), has revealed a 5.5-inch LCD smartphone screen that can be bent like OLED displays from Samsung and LG. While not quite as flexible and thin as OLED, the “Full Active Flex” 1080p screen could be used in phones with curved screens like the Galaxy S7 Edge, the company told the Wall Street Journal. LCD is a lot cheaper than OLED, so you could see a lot more curved phone designs when it starts manufacturing the panels in 2018.

Since LCD displays usually have a glass backing, it’s been difficult to curve them until now. Japan Display got around that issue by using plastic for both side of the liquid crystal layer. That allows not only a flexible screen, but could also help “prevent cracking from occurring when the display is dropped,” the company said. It also hopes to adapt the screens for other products, including car displays and laptops.

Japan Display also told the WSJ that it has launch customers for the screens, though it wouldn’t say whether Apple or any other company was among those. Rumors of an OLED iPhone have been bubbling up recently, but some analysts think that all the OLED suppliers combined couldn’t meet Apple’s needs until at least 2018. If Cook and company decided to try curved screens, however, the LCD models from JDI now give them a future option besides OLED.

Source: Japan Display

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How I learned to love Electric Objects’ digital art display

“The last thing I need is another screen in my apartment.” That was my first thought when I heard about Electric Objects, a company that makes digital art displays. Between my 55-inch OLED TV, 34-inch ultra-widescreen PC monitor, MacBook Air, multiple tablets and iPhone 6S, what use would I have for more screens? But after spending some time with the $ 299 EO2, the company’s latest product, and its accompanying $ 10-a-month “Art Club” subscription, it wasn’t long before I saw the appeal of a cloud-connected display on my wall.

You could call me an aspirational art owner. I’d love to fill my apartment’s walls with unique pieces, but the process of finding and framing things is just too tedious. (Heck, I have a closet full of posters that still need to be properly mounted and framed.) The EO2 promised to bring a bit of culture to my home without much fuss. How could I say no to that?

The EO2 is basically just a 23-inch 1080p display with an internet connection. Its screen has a matte finish, which helps it avoid reflecting light sources and keeps it from looking like a glossy TV screen hanging on your wall. While its aluminum black case looks pretty basic, you can also snap on a $ 99 hardwood frame (available in maple, walnut, white wood and black wood) to make it match your decor.

You have a variety of options for setting it up: Simply lean it against something (there are two rubber feet in the box to prevent it from slipping) or hang it up on your wall with the included wall mount. Since my wife and I live in a Brooklyn apartment and want to preserve our walls, we chose to hang it with a single nail, like a typical picture frame, instead of using the two nails required for Electric Objects’ mount. The power cord that juts out of the bottom of the EO2 wasn’t much of a problem for us, but there are plenty of cable-hiding products on the market if that’s the sort of thing that bugs you.

Once the display is mounted, you just need to download the company’s app and step through the setup process to get it online. I initially ran into some trouble getting it connected, but that turned out to be a separate issue with my T-Mobile-issued ASUS router — I’ve moved over to a Netgear Nitehawk and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Next, it was time to get my art on. From the EO app, you can sift through the free content available from the Electric Objects community. There’s some good stuff there, but if you really want to get fancy, you can shell out for the $ 10 monthly “Art Club” subscription, which gives you full access to a plethora of classic and modern pieces from museums and well-known artists. Pushing a static image to the EO2 takes anywhere from two to five seconds on my 802.11AC 5GHz wireless network, while video pieces could take several minutes, depending on the size of the piece.

It wasn’t long before my wife and I really got into the EO2. We built a cat-themed playlist as a quick mood booster, and the new “Space is the Place” gallery, featuring work by the digital artist Adam Ferriss, ended up being a meditative way to evoke the immensity of the cosmos. The possibilities feel endless. Want to show off fine pieces of art? Go ahead! Want a playlist full of memes and pop culture references? You’re covered there too. You can even throw in your own photos and movie clips, which is perfect for when family comes over.

Just about everything I threw on the EO2 looked good, no matter if they relied on big, bold colors or fine lines and detail. Of course, it’s not something you’ll be staring at for hours on end like a TV or computer monitor; it just needs to make a good impression whenever you glance at it. Given the EO2’s price, I wasn’t expecting a world-class display, so I was surprised there wasn’t even much to complain about. Settings-wise, there’s not much to tweak. You can choose various levels of “auto brightness” support, which changes the screen’s brightness throughout the day, as well as set up a sleep timer. There aren’t any intricate image settings to deal with. (Colors looked decently calibrated to my untrained eyes.)

The EO2 isn’t exactly a revolutionary product. It didn’t completely change my life like my first smartphone, but it’s a nice way to quickly change up the mood in your home. After setting up several Philips Hue lightbulbs in my living room, I was surprised by how much slight lighting changes could influence the way I felt. Sending art to the EO2 had a similar effect; it’s hard not to feel contemplative when you run into a classic painting in your living room.

It’s also hard to compare the display to an actual framed print. There’s something about a physical piece of art, even if it’s a cheap reprint, that feels different than something projected on a screen. Choosing to frame a work of art and mount it on your wall has a feeling of permanence and commitment that a mere connected display, which can be changed in seconds, can’t replicate.

The key to appreciating the EO2? Don’t expect it to replace your framed art. Instead, think of it as a quick way to aesthetically remix a space. It’s also expensive at $ 299, and to truly enjoy it you have to subscribe to a service that costs as much as a Netflix subscription. If both of those prices end up dropping (hardware typically does, after all), Electric Objects might actually succeed at bringing fine art to the masses.

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